Teach for America, the nationwide private-public education partnership, is set to open a chapter in New Haven this fall after finalizing plans with the city’s school district.
Under the current plan, the new Teach for America chapter will place a total of 50 teachers in New Haven schools, 43 of whom are slated to work in public schools and seven of whom are expected to work in Achievement First charter schools, chapter recruiters said. This will be the first such site in Connecticut, although an additional 25 teachers may also be placed in Hartford schools.
Representatives from the New Haven Public Schools system and Achievement First approached the organization this summer about opening a site in New Haven, said Diane Robinson, Teach for America’s vice president for new site development. Robinson said secondary education in New Haven ranks below average, and she said she expects the local site to help bridge the city’s education gap.
“When you look at the student achievement ranks, there’s a huge gap, and Teach for America provides teachers that will be relentlessly dedicated to closing it,” Robinson said. “We’ll be helping New Haven to solve the problems they have.”
Teach for America representatives said the organization seeks to eliminate educational inequality by recruiting recent college graduates to teach in urban and rural schools for two years. Nationally, the program currently numbers approximately 3,500 “corps members,” teachers who are employed in approximately 1,000 schools spread throughout 22 low-income regions of the United States.
Before creating a new site, Teach for America looks at a community’s needs, its teacher vacancies, the state’s ability to place teachers without any background in education, and the community’s ability to support the cost of new teachers, Robinson said. The program is still looking to finalize funding plans for the New Haven site, but Robinson said she thinks the group will accomplish this soon.
Robin Golden, chief administrative officer for New Haven’s public schools, said in an e-mail that the city hopes to benefit from an increased number of new teachers through the new Teach for America site.
“We contacted Teach for America this summer because we had heard that they attracted a highly educated, committed, energetic level of candidate,” Golden said. “We had also heard that although the commitment that the Teach for America corps member must make is only two years, these committed individuals often stay involved in public education.”
Representatives for Achievement First, the charter school program, could not be reached for comment.
Connecticut Department of Education spokeswoman Marsha Howland said Teach for America still needs to organize teaching courses for its aspiring teachers to meet state requirements, which she said she is confident the group will do.
“We really hope and trust that this will happen,” Howland said. “What Teach for America has to offer appears to be very positive.”
Teach for America has become an increasingly popular postgraduate program among Yale seniors, an eighth of whom applied for the program this year. Some students said they would apply for the New Haven site if the project goes through.
Dexter Upshaw ’06 said the New Haven site interests him because he is already involved in the community and wants to continue to help its members.
“I am excited about the New Haven corps, personally, because I had plans to stay in the area post-graduation,” said Upshaw, who currently serves as an intern at the Dixwell-Yale Community Learning Center. “I have witnessed firsthand the need for greater attention towards New Haven youth.”
Sana Sim ’06, who lives in Bridgeport, Conn., said she wants to work close to home so that she can help her parents financially.
“I was only interested in applying for Teach for America if I could stay in Connecticut,” she said. “I come from a low-income family, and that really [determines] what I do next.”
Robinson said Teach for America hopes to announce the location of the expansion sites in the near future.